For World Mission Sunday and other missional occasions in the Episcopal Church it may be helpful to liturgists to point out some of the prayers available in the Book of Common Prayer that can be used to lift up the church’s mission both at home and around the world.
The mission prayer I use most often is the second one of the three designated “prayers for mission” found at Morning Prayer, pp. 100-101:
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The first of the three prayers highlights the “vocation and ministry” of all church members. The third movingly sees Jesus’ arms outstretched on the cross as expressing his longing “that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace” and then asks that we, Spirit-filled, may reach forth our hands in love to “bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you.” So any of the three is wonderfully edifying.
In the Collects for Various Occasions, the second of the three Morning Prayer mission collects (the one cited in full above) is the first of the two “For the Mission of the Church” at p. 257. The second at that spot is not so well known but is good in emphasizing the church’s initiative in proclaiming the gospel:
O God of all the nations of the earth: Remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Among the Prayers and Thanksgivings at the back of the Prayerbook on p. 838 is a fine thanksgiving For the Mission of the Church that celebrates both the work of missionaries – a category that includes both “foreign” missionaries and their many more numerous indigenous missional colleagues – and the resulting life of the church around the world:
Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to yourself: We praise and bless you for those whom you have sent in the power of the Spirit to preach the Gospel to all nations. We thank you that in all parts of the earth a community of love has been gathered together by their prayers and labors, and that in every place your servants call upon your Name; for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours for ever. Amen.
World Mission Sunday is a good time to include in the Prayers of the People all the missional connections your church may have: community outreaches in your neighborhood; your participation in local ecumenical outreach; mission trips past and future to places in North America; companion parish and diocesan links you may have in other parts of the world; mission trips past and present to other parts of the world; mission societies with which you may collaborate; and missionaries you know who are serving in various parts of the world.
If, as is likely, you have in your congregation members who come from other parts of the world – say, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Honduras, India – it would be good to pray for the churches in their countries of origin. You could troll the web for some information about them. Better yet, call your members before church to ask them to lift up some particulars about their home church situation aloud during the Prayers of the People. If they’re reluctant, ask them to give you some information that you can lift up in prayer.
If there’s an especially urgent need for financial assistance with a mission project, whether locally or abroad, World Mission Sunday is a good day to take up a special collection for that through whatever means seems best.
If you’re hunting around for resources about mission, postings on this blogsite include various lists of possibilities with some commentary. Just search “World Mission Sunday.” The Episcopal Church website always has some good suggestions, as well as bulletin inserts that highlight any special mission theme for the day.
If you plan to commission missionaries – which includes those engaged in outreach nearer to home as well as abroad – click here for a suggested commissioning liturgy.
World Mission Sunday was established by the 1997 General Convention to occur on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. Epiphanytide was chosen for its theme of the manifestation of Christ in all the world. World Mission Sunday 2013 was the 16th occasion of the observance.